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Hong Kong’s Travel Bubble With Singapore Under Threat Before it Even Starts as New COVID-19 Wave Hits

Hong Kong’s Travel Bubble With Singapore Under Threat Before it Even Starts as New COVID-19 Wave Hits

Officials in Singapore are in “close contact” with their counterparts in Hong Kong with a decision yet to be made on whether a quarantine-free ‘travel bubble’ between the two cities should be scrapped before it even gets going. Uncertainty over the travel bubble arrangements emerged on Friday after Hong Kong witnessed another spike in COVID-19 cases with 26 new cases confirmed and a further 40 preliminary positive cases identified.

Singapore and Hong Kong announced the travel bubble on November 11 and the first flights are set to take off on Sunday. The bubble has been lauded as a “milestone for the global tourism industry” and was set to pave the way for the safe resumption of international travel.

Initially, there will be just one designated ‘travel bubble’ flight per day between Hong Kong and Singapore and passengers will still need to present a negative COVID-19 test certificate dated within 72 hours of departure.

Officials, however, built in a safety mechanism should either city see an uptick in COVID-19 cases. If the seven-day rolling average for unlinked coronavirus infections exceeds five in either city, the travel bubble can be suspended for at least two weeks.

“We are working closely with Singapore Ministry of Health to gather the facts, and will update the public shortly,” a spokesperson for Singapore’s civil aviation authority commented on Friday. The spokesperson said both governments were in “close contact” over the issue.

Hong Kong’s Secretary for Food & Health Professor Sophia Chan said at a news conference on Friday that the territory had “probably” entered a “fourth wave” of the novel Coronavirus pandemic. In contrast, Singapore recorded just four new cases on Friday, all of which were imported from abroad.

In response to the new outbreak, Hong Kong has suspended some primary school classes and urged employees to embrace flexible working. 12 of the new cases were linked to a dance club where some of the instructors had also taught at other dance studios.

Cathay Pacific had been looking forward to the travel bubble opening, with chief commercial officer Ronald Lam describing the agreement as a “milestone showcase for the opening of more, similar air travel bubbles.” Lam spoke positively of opening new travel bubbles in the region, as well as further afield.

All eyes will now be on Hong Kong’s COVID-19 cases numbers over the next 48 hours with a decision whether to allow the travel bubble to go ahead still to be made.

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